Saturday, 29 June 2019

Hotel pair Duke and Duchess at Thrupp

We didn't do much today after the exertions of the previous few days. We walked to the Co-op in Kidlington, only fifteen minutes from Thrupp, where we bought the ingredients of the barbecue we had this evening.

We need to make an early start tomorrow, so we left our lovely 7-day mooring, passed under the lift bridge and stopped at the service mooring for water and Elsan. Then we moved a short distance further, to a space on the 14-day moorings among the trees.

This afternoon the hotel pair Duke and Duchess passed us. Here they are going under the lift bridge ...

... and pausing in the wide to pick up two passengers.

It has been blisteringly hot today, so it was good to be able to move the boat in the relative cool of the evening. By the time we tied up on the 14-day mooring it was 2145.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Farewell Lin

We drove down to Trowbridge in Wiltshire yesterday for the funeral of another BCF member, Lin Atwill. The cemetery chapel was packed - the volume of the singing was tremendous. At the end of the service some of us were invited to lay a rose on Lin's coffin; Jan laid one on behalf of the BCF. After the committal we joined a service of thanksgiving for Lin's life in Holy Trinity Church in the centre of Trowbridge. This was another celebration, an acknowledgement that Lin and we believe that she is now with Jesus.

The funeral was attended by most members of the Canal Ministries team, which Lin was part of. (Canal Ministries is more overtly evangelistic than the BCF, although all members of Canal Ministries are also members of the BCF.) During the service there was an opportunity for anybody who wished to give their own tribute to do so. Peter, Lin's husband, spoke movingly of one of Lin's last acts: giving a £10 note to a needy person in the street. Above all, though, Lin's faith and trust in Jesus shone through.

On a much more mundane level we walked around the town afterwards, spotting some unusual buildings. The Blind House is said to be where the drunks of the area were incarcerated until they had sobered up.

And the strikingly perforated Handle House was built for the drying of teazles used in the woollen cloth industry.

We stayed overnight with our good friends Andy and Sue, enjoyed breakfast with them in their "office" (the local Wetherspoon's), did some more looking round charity shops and drove back to Thrupp.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

A final narrowboat journey

Today we joined with more than a hundred people celebrating the life of a founder member of the Boaters' Christian Fellowship. David Clark produced the BCF Word magazine for several years, was on the committee and played the keyboard at worship gatherings. He and his wife, Anne, travelled extensively on Thrupp'ny Peace, their narrowboat named after the Oxfordshire village where they lived. David died earlier this month.

David's wish to be cremated in a colourful narrowboat coffin was granted; his ashes will be scattered in his garden and in the canal.

Some aspects of his life were represented on a "wake cake": playing the keyboard, film making and his dog are obvious, but we don't know what the baked bean tins are all about.

We counted 19 BCF members, including Anne, at the thanksgiving service, all but two of whom came to the wake. This was held in David's local, the Boat Inn.

We returned to the boat in Yarnton, where the church service was, and boated back to Thrupp. I cycled back to retrieve the car ready for our trip to Wiltshire tomorrow for another BCF funeral. We were surprised to see two more pairs of Jules Fuel boats. As we need diesel we hovered by the boats and tried phoning the number, but spoke only to an answerphone.

After tying up I found the crews just about to start eating in the Boat Inn ... but they were on holiday and wouldn't have served me even if they had had supplies. They did say that the pair I had seen yesterday were going to come up the Oxford Canal from the Thames in a few days' time, so we should coincide at some point.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Visitors from the Caribbean

Today ... it rained. It rained on the Megabus coach I took from Oxford to Coventry. It rained on me cycling from Coventry to Pailton, where I'd left the car. It rained a bit on the car as I drove to Yarnton, but it didn't rain on me as I cycled from Yarnton to Oxford. I had the heating on full blast in the car to try to warm my feet which had got soaked and cold. I discovered on my bike ride that my iPhone 4S doesn't work properly when there's rainwater on the screen and my fingers are cold and wet. Do other phones suffer in the same way?

I got back to the boat at about 1620 and had two very welcome cups of tea. Thanks, Jan. I was about to eat a slice of lemon sponge cake when I became aware of three people outside the boat. I poked my head out of the door and got talking to them. They were friendly and interested in the boat; at least two of them hadn't seen a narrowboat before.

After talking for a bit I invited them aboard for a look round - they were thrilled. The middle one in the photo had just graduated from Oxford Brookes; her sister and mother had come over from Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean for the event. If I have it right the one on the right is Ocean; Mother's name is something like Rachaela. (I have to confess my ignorance here: I had never heard of Turks and Caicos, a British Overseas Territory.)

When we said goodbye to them we set off up the Oxford Canal. There were three lift bridges to operate before we got to Yarnton, all in one half-mile stretch (bridges 234, 233 and 231). Each is supposed to be operated by turning your BW/CRT key in the lock and raising the handle which is connected directly to the bridge deck. To lower the bridge again there is a chain dangling from the handle.

At Lift Bridge 233 the lock is missing so anyone can operate the bridge.

Now there is a CRT notice asking boaters to work the bridge by crossing and pulling a chain. Only there is no chain the other side. The only easy way to operate it is by lifting the handle, as described above. Perhaps this notice was meant for another bridge.

Approaching Duke's Lock it seemed that someone was emptying the lock. But when we got nearer it became apparent that it was just a leaky bottom gate. The lock was almost full, though, as the top gate was probably even leakier.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Minor collision on the Cherwell - no-one hurt ... and an Oxford trashing

We had a whole day "off" in Oxford today. One of the things we did was to walk round Christ Church Meadow in the sunshine. On the east side of the meadow the River Cherwell joins the Thames in a meandering way. The river splits into several channels and is popular with punts and other human-powered craft.

Some punts were expertly guided along the channels. Other vessels had less experienced crew and zigzagged along crashing gently into the banks each side. When a pedalo appeared on the scene - a pedalo which spent most of the time spinning round and going nowhere - an oncoming punt had nowhere to go.

The brakes are even less effective than those on a narrowboat. Judging from the amount of laughter everyone involved was having a great time.

The longhorn cattle in the meadow were not interested.

The students we met at Thrupp didn't tell us about something we witnessed later. In Merton Street behind the university's examinations centre a group of students gathered behind a barricade. They were armed with shaving foam and flowers, with champagne and powdered paint, and were waiting for their friends who had just finished their exams.

The "victims", still wearing the gowns they took their exams in, seemed to be enjoying being covered in foam, paint and glitter.

The practice is known as "trashing" and is apparently not condoned by the university authorities, but seemingly tolerated.

After watching for a few minutes we walked a short distance along the road to Merton College, and Choral Evensong in the chapel.

Oh yes, earlier in the day we had walked along the Thames and saw two familiar boats pass downstream. The Jules Fuels pair are usually found in the Stoke Bruerne Weedon area on the GU. Perhaps they are on holiday.

Tomorrow I'm going by Megabus and bike to pick up the car from near Coventry.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Unsafe railway track work?

During the night last night, and continuing throughout today, a section of railway track was being relaid in Thrupp. In the early hours of the morning I heard the occasional hoot of a locomotive and a constant diesel engine running. When I looked out from the boat I could see a stationary long train of yellow ballast wagons on the line.

We walked to church at Shipton-upon-Cherwell; as we were early I nipped across towards Hampton Gay to see what was happening on the railway a bit closer. I returned with my camera after the service and took these pictures.

I saw diggers grabbing ballast out of the wagons and offloading it, presumably onto the track; I saw packs of concrete sleepers similarly being offloaded.

Here, not that you can really see it, a noisy machine seemed to be jiggling the ballast, presumably getting it into the right place.

This is the bit the title of this post refers to: a footpath runs under a railway bridge over the River Cherwell. A sizeable quantity of ballast had spilt down between the tracks onto this footpath. There were no banksmen controlling access to the footpath. If even one piece of ballast had fallen on your head as you were walking underneath you would certainly have known about it.

I managed to talk to one of the workers through a fence and told him about it; he said he would tell his boss. Rather after the event, though.

In the field next to the railway I saw a lot of black stuff on some stinging nettles.

Closer examination revealed it to be masses of spiky black caterpillars, with white spots, stripping the leaves of the nettle plants. And they are ...?

Back to boating. We moved on from the delightful village of Thrupp, dropping down another three locks and negotiating two or three lift bridges, to Oxford. I took the boat onto the Thames through Isis Lock in order to wind.

Having come back through the lock we reversed to the end of the Oxford Canal for the obligatory photo, then we moved on to one of the two-day visitor moorings.

After tea (and the Grand Prix) we wandered around the city for a while in the warm evening. Jan said she fancied an ice cream, so we shared a pudding of pancakes with maple syrup and ice cream at the Wetherspoons. Jan had the ice cream.

Back on board we learn that a thunderstorm is forecast for tonight. We'll see (and hear?).

Saturday, 22 June 2019

A tale of two day boats

On the sunniest day of the summer so far we travelled from Aynho Wharf to Thrupp. Rather more than we had planned - we had originally intended to stop at Lower Heyford - but we decided to give ourselves an extra day in Oxford. We did stop at Lower Heyford for water but, by the time the tank was full, so too were the 48 hour moorings in front of us. Two boats had nabbed the last two spaces while filling up.

We encountered two day boats between Lower Heyford and Thrupp. The first was all over the place and steered straight into the brickwork of a bridge.

The second seemed a bit more under control despite looking overloaded. Look: one of them is reading a book!

We met the crew of the second boat again, in the Boat Inn in Thrupp (where we had a nice meal). They were students at Keble College politely celebrating the end of their exams.

In the evening we called in to see Anne, a BCF friend who lives in Thrupp.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Too light to open a lift bridge?

Not far south of Banbury this morning we found that some wag had repositioned a sign to indicate that the channel lay to the right. Er, no - that's just a winding hole. I wonder how many people have been caught out. (Sorry for the photo which doesn't really show much - I grabbed it a little too late.)

The next bit of interest was a lift bridge which is supposed normally to be open. Except it was closed and the bank was rather inaccessible. I got off at the bow and hung on the chain to open the bridge which, eventually, brought the balance beams down. It was a close run thing, though. Since adopting a low saturated fat diet I now weigh only a smidgen above 9 stone. For the lift bridges nearer Oxford I'm going to have to tie a dozen windlasses around me.

We stopped for lunch above King's Sutton (or Tarver's) Lock; we tied up for the night at Aynho Wharf. We were now, surprisingly, in Northamptonshire again, the last time having been Braunston. Low down along the towpath someone had fixed curious button-decorated doors with messages inside.

This one says "Be the best unicorn ever!"

We chose what felt like the busiest time of day for road traffic to walk along the B-road to Aynho. There is no pavement; we spent half the time stepping onto the rough verge to avoid being run over. I'm sure it was nothing like this busy the last time we were here. We wandered around the pretty streets and alleyways, then came back to the boat for tea via the Great Western Arms where I downed a swift half of Old Hooky.

After tea we walked in the other direction, crossing the border into Oxfordshire, to Clifton. Here I enjoyed a pint of porter in the Duke of Cumberland's Head. On the way we noticed the strange phenomenon of mist swirling above patches of water lying in the field.

Was it a hot spring? (No, an average summer ...)

The most likely explanation is that the water had been warmed by the sun during the day; now, as the air temperature dropped, the evaporating water became visible as vapour.

Quite a weird effect.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Would this help you not to lose your windlass?

Someone else is prone to leaving their windlass behind.

The sign says something like "Have you forgotten your windlass?"

I think I would get used to seeing the notice ... and still leave my windlass on a balance beam somewhere.

The cottage at (Little) Bourton Lock still looks sadly neglected.

We stopped in Banbury by Bridge 162 so we could go to Aldi for supplies. While we were in the store it started to rain; it kept going until we were back at the boat. After lunch we moved a short distance nearer the town centre ... and almost regretted it. It's a building site, complete with noisy diggers, concrete crushing machine and dust.

We retreated slightly to be outside Spiceball Park ...

... and treated ourselves to an excellent curry at Jool.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

CRT at work on the Claydon flight

We encountered CRT in two separate locations on the Claydon lock flight today. A team from Leeds was measuring Lock 20 so they could make replacement bottom gates the right size. The method was crude, to say the least. To measure the width of the lock at the bottom of the gates a tape measure was fixed to poles with masking tape and then lowered against the sides of the lock. It seemed that trial and error was used until the tape was the right length. I didn't get a photo of this, but witnessed the measurement of the angle of lean of the quoin. This involved leaning over the side, holding a spirit level vertical and measuring the distance out of true.

A little further on, at Claydon Bottom Lock, there was an altogether more intricate operation going on.

A new balance beam was being cut, chiselled and routed into the exact shape needed.

With the beam missing from the gate locking through was very slow. Only one bottom paddle was in operation, and the gate without beam was having to be hauled open by a beefy CRT man pulling on a rope.

They told me they'd been working on this lock for a week.

We had been in a queue of three; by the time we got through the lock an hour later the queue from the other direction was six deep.

We tied up at Cropredy at about 4pm. Banbury tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Woody Woodpecker pays a visit

Last night we found ourselves in another mobile data free zone, so here is what I had intended to post then, plus a couple of pics from today.

On Friday, just before setting off from Welford Junction, Jan spotted a green woodpecker on the bank.

Apologies for the poor quality photos.

As with many on the cut we lit our stove. This was on Saturday - only three days ago. It's warmed up now, I'm glad to say, even if the rain persists.

Yesterday, as forecast, our two grandsons and their parents visited. We were just tying up below Napton Locks; we all went to the Folly Inn for lunch. After they had gone I cycled to Southam for supplies from the large Tesco there. On the way back my back tyre suddenly deflated. Again. Fortunately I was nearly at the canal, so I was able to push the bike along the towpath the half mile or so to the boat.

This morning we set off up the Napton flight - actually in T-shirt and shorts (well I was). Many of the pounds were rather low.

Above Marston Doles we stopped to say hello to a BCF couple on Chouette. They came aboard Jubilee for a cup of tea after we had had our separate lunches.

Angela, Pat and Jan
Tomorrow we're aiming for Banbury. In the rain. Good job we are waterproof.